Where were all these people in blackface, KKK garb, growing up?

virginia logoI’m reading in national publications that blackface and KKK getups are apparently everywhere in Virginia, or was, or something.

I guess I shouldn’t doubt what I’m reading. Somebody in New York knows better what’s going on in Virginia than, I mean, I do.

Apparently, blackface and KKK hoods and whatnot were a big thing at frat parties at UVA, my alma mater, according to one columnist as recently as the 2000s decade.

I can’t speak to the frat scene at UVA: I wasn’t in a frat.

I don’t remember ever seeing people in blackface, people in KKK getups, on Grounds, but I have to concede, I wasn’t everywhere all the time.

Thinking back to childhood, my teen years, growing up in Augusta County, I don’t remember blackface or KKK garb being a thing, either.

I’m not saying, at all, that I didn’t, don’t, know racist people. I sure do.

I’ve heard the n-word used. It’s been a good while, but I’ve definitely heard it used.

But I can’t say that I remember even one instance where I saw somebody dress up in blackface or in KKK nonsense.

Informal poll: I asked my wife, and she can’t remember anything like that, either.

Not saying Augusta County is top 1 percent in terms of race relations; it’s most assuredly not.

We have our issues, like everybody else.

I just learned recently, for instance, from the daughter of one of my elementary-school teachers, that some of the teachers at my school used awful racist language amongst themselves.

I’m estimating here, but our school, roughly 200 kids, had between five and ten African American students, and I might be overstating that.

It’s awful, thinking back on that, that those kids had to go to a school where teachers thought of them as any less than kids who deserved the best education.

My high-school class was also small; around 120 kids.

I’d estimate, again, maybe five of them were African American.

The one odd racial thing from that era that comes to mind was from a drama class I took senior year.

We were doing a unit on comedy, and one of the skits that we were to put on had a servant character.

The teacher had the African American student in the class play the servant, and directed him to shuffle when he walked.

If it was supposed to be funny, it didn’t go over.

Not trying to say we were ahead of any curves in terms of attitudes on race.

If we had been, we would have started a petition to have the drama teacher censured.

In college, I would have gone out of my way to eat lunch more than once with Frank and Gerard, the African American guys from the next suite.

Lunch at UVA was segregation at its worst. White kids ate with white kids, black kids ate with black kids.

One day, only one day, I made it a point to sit with Frank and G in the black section.

Maybe I could have saved the world, had I lunched with them again.

It’s not quite wearing blackface next to a guy in a KKK hood in a yearbook photo, but that’s my sin.

That, and not speaking up in drama class.

And not knowing that some of my elementary-school teachers were dropping the n-word in the teachers lounge, and doing something about it.

I was the BMOC in elementary school; I could have done something.

I’m trying to imagine those environments where people could think that it was appropriate to do the blackface thing.

The KKK hood and robe getup is a whole ‘nuther level of WTF.

I grew up around people who had stupid views on race, but that level of hate was something that I wasn’t exposed to.

But, anyway, the folks in New York will tell you that I don’t know what I’m talking about, because everybody in Virginia is familiar with how much shoe polish is enough, but not too much, and we’re all constantly short a clean set of sheets, for using them for dinner parties.

I guess I was just sheltered.

Column by Chris Graham

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